“I’m getting older and my joints are killing me when I lift weights. Is there anything I can do to train pain-free?” Ray K., San Bernardino, CA
Start substituting more joint-friendly exercises. The bench press is a mighty upper-body builder, but using a standard barbell for it is hard on the shoulders and elbows. Keith Scott, a physical therapist and the owner of Impact Training & Fitness in West Berlin, NJ, recommends using a bar that offers angled or parallel grips. These bars are often called Swiss and football bars, respectively. “You can swap out traditional deadlifts for trap-bar deadlifts,” Scott says, “which put less stress on your lower back because you don’t have to reach forward as far.” For chinups, consider using a pair of rings rather than a fixed bar, which allow your arms to move naturally as you perform your reps. If you can’t make these substitutions, you can always do more dumbbell work, which is decidedly safer and more joint-friendly than barbell training. But remember this: Getting older doesn’t doom you to training soft. You can still go heavy, just not as often. Spend more time in the 8- to 12-rep range on exercises to prevent joint strain.